Okinawa's Mijun Soba offers subtle taste, big difference
On Okinawa, a new broth has made its debut promising to break the norm but still living up to local soba enthusiasts’ expectations.
If you’ve ever had soba noodles before, you know that the broth is usually pork- or bonito fish flake-based.
Mijun soba features the usual Okinawa soba noodles, but it’s the broth made from mijun, a type of herring special to Yomitan Village, which brings the new twist.
Since Maruha, a noodle joint on Route 58, opened in March of last year locals have been flocking to try the new flavor.
“Mijun soba is our popular menu item. There are only a few locations where you can eat it, including our place,” a Maruha staffer said.
The dish, which is described as soba with “sardine soup” at the restaurant, tastes quite different from what one might normally have. The mijun fish, which is first boiled then dried before being made into the broth, has a subtle flavor compared to the pork bone and bonito flake broth-based noodle bowls.
Mijun fish meat tops the bowl of soft and chewy noodles – a delicious accent I wasn’t expecting. Those who would like to spice it up can use some extra powdered-mijun or a pickled artemisia herb called “hoocheebar” in Okinawa, which adds some nice depth and extra salt to the broth. The dish can be served hot or cold depending on your preference.
According to a report by the Yomitan Village’s tourism association, a recipe for the broth was invented in an effort showcase their signature fish. It took two years to come up with the right recipe and by the broth’s taste you can tell that their efforts paid off.
Traditionalists can still enjoy pork-based and bonito flake-based broth with their soba at Maruha. The restaurant even offers a mixture of the two, as the delicately “fishy” broth and the sweet pork base complement each other well.
While going into some of the island’s soba restaurants may seem daunting, Maruha offers English buttons on the vending machine used to order your bowl of noodles.
The joint’s interior is cozy and their giant shisa dog on the exterior of the building serves as an inviting greeter.
Maruha’s menu offerings make for a great first (or 500th) bowl of soba whether its broth is pork, bonito, or the delicious newcomer – mijun.
Address: 458-3 Kina, Yomitan Village
GPS Coordinates: N 26.404498, E 127.758850
Hours: 11 a.m. – 9 p.m.
* Mijun soba is 800 yen for medium, and 600 yen for small.
* Customers can pick mijun or tonkotsu broth or a mixture of the two for each noodle.
* Free parking is available about 50 yards away (N 26.403486, E 127.758664)
Yomitan Village, northwest of Kadena Air Base, is the host municipality of Torii Station and known as the most populated village in Japan. As of December 2018, it has a population of over 40,000. It has historical significance as it saw the initial invasion during the Battle of Okinawa. In addition to mijun fish, the village has other signature products such as beni-imo purple sweet potatoes, and yachimun, a type of Okinawan pottery.